Wednesday, October 13, 2021


The day the Hospital of Hope opened: March 2015

In early August I posted a Facebook teaser about a big life change coming. Little did I know how fortuitous that post would be. I was planning on announcing that after 10 years of living overseas, I would be moving home at the end of October—well, to my previous home at least, the US.  

Three weeks after that post, I found myself taking a sensory walk in my sister’s neighborhood outside of Louisville, KY. I had received a phone call about a family emergency the week before, and was on a plane back from Togo to the US a few days later (So much for October!) A sensory walk is designed to focus on one of the 5 senses for a period of time before moving on to the next one. I had never done a sensory walk before, but thought it would be a helpful exercise in focusing on the Lord and the unexpected events that had taken place both acutely and in last 10 years of my journey. 


I began with listening, and tried to close my eyes to help myself avoid the distractions of what I could see. My starting point happened to be at the top of the hill, and as I walked I could hear my soft footsteps and the birds, someone getting into their car, and the wind rustling the trees. But the terrain quickly changed to the steep uphill on the other side of the cement valley I had walked into. With each step, the sounds around me disappeared, drowned out by the noise of my own panting breath. As I neared the top of the hill I was deaf to everything around me except my own out of shape lungs! I assume the birds were still chirping and the wind blowing, but the beautiful soft sounds of nature were replaced with the sound of struggle. 


I couldn’t help but think back over some days, weeks or even years of struggle in Togo. It was now so clear how those struggles often drowned out the beauty that was surely co-existing beside it. Presently, my sister and her immediate family were being dragged up hill and I knew their hearing would be soon overtaken by the sound of their own breath. I remembered the gifted people who had come alongside me during my time spent walking uphill. Some provided company for the journey, some provided encouragement despite the pain, and some even carried me for a time. I came home when my sister needed me because I knew I could now provide those things for her. 


After reaching the top of the hill it was time for seeing. The road flattened out for a time—a period of rest and recovery. After the uphill battle ends, one needs a time of steadiness and predictability. A time to recover from what has taken place but to also look ahead and what is coming and prepare. In my walk, I could see that more hills and valleys were ahead, but I valued the quarter-mile stretch of flatness to collect my breath and my thoughts. 

“These are the stretches of life where decision making should happen”, I thought. Many times we tend to make life decisions in the free-fall of downhill, when all things seem easy and nothing could stop us. The other temptation is while we are struggling uphill and can’t imagine going any further. But both of these periods are motivated by emotion, and in many ways, made in blindness. We are swept away by “falling in love” with a person or idea and no one can stop our momentum, or we are worn down by the climb since the longer it goes, the more hope dwindles that it will ever end. I remember learning in driver’s Ed. that you can never pass on an up-hill because the closer you are to the peak, the less and less you can see what’s coming ahead. Both of these situations are tainted and can lead us astray when making decision about where the Lord is leading us. 


Thankfully, I had a year of walking a relative flat road. It was a time to reflect and build-up and be poured into by friends, family, and counselors. It was a time to stop and pause to look back at things the Lord had done, with still having enough room to look and see what may lie ahead. And it was during this time I was given a settled peace about saying good-bye to the work here in Togo and moving towards what is next. Even on this sensory walk, surrounded by family emergencies and uncertainness, all I felt was peace. The last few months in Togo, I have had to sit with close Togolese friends and explain that I was leaving. In one conversation with a closest friend he said, “but as you are talking about leaving you seem so happy”. I explained that I my heart was heavy to go, but that there is a joy that comes with walking in the direction you know has come from the Lord. 


So where am I going? What direction am I headed in? Graciously, two years ago the Lord put a vision on my heart and on the heart of a colleague and best friend.  This vision has come to be known as Iron 2 Silver. In Isaiah 60:15- 17 the Lord is declaring the renewal and redemption of His people, an exchange of the old for the new:


 …you shall know that I, the Lord, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. Instead of bronze I will bring gold, and instead of iron I will bring silver; instead of wood, bronze, instead of stones, iron.”


A standard of care is needed in medical missions, we like to call the Silver Standard—a standard that can be attained, followed and modeled in the resource limited setting that changes survival rates, improves quality, and gives patients the dignity and love of our profession both as medical practitioners and followers of Christ. We have seen that excellent care can be delivered in low income settings here at the Hospital of Hope, and we are excited to help other mission hospitals attain what has been possible here at HOH, and more! So many people are serving and working in other hospitals that need a practical hand in improving care. The desire exists, but the time and resources don’t. We want to be the bridge to help them. 


We believe that medicine is not just a platform for ministry, but is also ministry in itself as we use our profession to bring quality care to those most in need. We give our best because we are all made in the Image of God and His love is demonstrated by bringing dignity and proclaiming truth while raising the standard of care whenever possible. As we partner with faith-based clinics and hospitals around the world, we are committing to helping them find appropriate ways of honoring people through better, safer care, one step at a time.  We want to partner with these ministries in areas they identify in training, resources, consultation and on-going monitoring and evaluation. 


To run this program effectively, Sarah and I will be stationed in the Louisville, KY (YAY!!!) and traveling to the mission hospitals as needed, but consider this our full-time jobs. As we make this transition, we are desiring to build a team that consists of multiple layers:

1.    PRAYER SUPPORT: We don’t want people to feel like joining us as prayer supporters is a second level of support—a way to support us if you can’t join us financially. We want prayer WARRIORS! The Lord moves in us and through us all using prayer. Prayer is how we bring the Kingdom of Heaven near to us! Let us know if you will be joining our prayer team and we will be creating a separate group via WhatsApp/Signal in order to communicate prayer requests and answered prayer. We hope this will become a family in which we will bring each other’s requests before the throne regularly. 

2.    RESOURCE SUPPORT: The Lord has gifted you with knowledge and ties to resources that we don’t have! This could be an expertise in a particular area, access to supplies, or access to people/relationships that our partners could benefit from. We know that the body of Christ has been fully equipped as a whole, but that as individuals we cannot fulfil these needs on our own. Let us know how you are gifted and if you are willing to use these gifts to improve care in other parts of the world! Another resource you have is the social and professional circles you have! Do you know others who may be interested in partnering with us to bring excellence in health care regardless of where someone was born? We’d love to meet them! 

3.    FINANCIAL SUPPORT: Your first thought may be, “she is living in America, why does she need financial support??” Although I will both be re-entering the American medical system on a very part-time basis, I am hoping to be able to work on i2S programming full-time, whether overseas or here in the US, and will be a full-time medical missionary of the Christian Health Service Corps. If you are interested in joining as a financial partner, this can be done by joining the i2S team! CHSC is allowing us to raise funds for i2S all through the same i2S project fund. For any of you who would like to support our project financially, these funds go directly towards our support and all the i2S projects. Currently, the only way to give is through Text to give by texting i2S to 41444 and follow the link! You can also click here: If you need a way to mail in to CHSC, that is also possible. 

Those of you who have already been giving financially over the years to my work at ABWE and would like to continue to support the work at ABWE, please let me know, as great work will continue at the Hospital of Hope.  I will continue to work with HOH on the Surviving Takes Hope cancer program!


Although I was pulled back to the US prematurely, the Lord acted in miraculous ways during our family emergency and I was able to come back to Togo for 2 weeks so I could properly say good-bye to my friends and family. (I will save that story for another day). 


The end of October marks 10 years since I first left for the mission field and it’s hard to capture all the thoughts and emotions involved in letting go. The work has always been the Lord’s and He will move it forward long after I go. I can already see a small glimpse of how He will use each valley, each mountain top I experienced here in Togo for future work—that nothing will be wasted. I read back over past blogs and reflect on the countless stories never written, but His story is never just about one place, one person, one dream. Our God is writing all of our stories and weaving them together for His pleasure, His perfect pleasure. My life and journey in Togo isn't the end of my story, but the turning of a page. 

I will be back in Louisville on October 25th and would love to meet up with any of you to catch up and discuss life. Sarah and I have already begun working with ministries around the globe through Iron 2 Silver, and I look forward to sharing more soon. 


My gratefulness to you for your partnership in the Gospel over these many years could never be properly expressed. May His Grace and Peace cover you in the days ahead. 




Friday, March 5, 2021

Painfully beautiful

When grief is born it is no different than a newborn baby, screaming, demanding attention, and needing to be fed. It consumes our time and energy, refusing to be ignored. As it becomes a toddler, we think we have it under control until it suddenly surfaces, like a public tantrum when you least expect it. In the school-aged years it develops manners—as we feel we have a choice as to when we experience it, like during a relevant to a conversation, but can control the level of emotion based on convenience. As a young adult, its takes on a matter-of-fact attitude—always present but often ignored; a backpack whose weight is forgotten because it never comes off. As an adult, it is an old friend—someone who impacted your life at one time, but who you don’t see as often anymore. You meet up for coffee once a year, able to pick up where you left off, yet with a mature perspective that the years have granted you both. 

As most of you know, February 26th, 2015 is the inaugural date of the opening of the Hospital of Hope. Six years ago, all the work and preparation was celebrated in a ceremony attended by thousands, including the President of Togo.  One year later, to the day, our Director and friend Todd Dekryger lost his life to Lassa Fever.  Another year later, to the day, Tama, a small boy with chronic illness who we took cared of for months, not only in the hospital, but in our home, also went to be with the Lord.  It’s a heavy anniversary day for all of us, often filled with a mix of joy, sorrow, confusion, doubt, and hope. 

One of Todd’s relatives told me not long ago, “when I think of him, all I can do is smile.” It was an incredibly mature thing to say and something that I couldn’t say at the time, because it was so hard to move past the association of loss. I did wonder, what would it take to look at the pain in my life, both people and things taken away, and just be able to smile at the thought that we ever had them at all? 


I think it takes the constant reminders to ourselves about who God is. In this case, the fact that 

God is good....all the time

He knows how to gift good gifts.....because he knows us perfectly

He never leaves us or forsakes us....ever

He has overcome the world....already

He upholds us with His hands.....daily

His power is perfect in weakness

He renews the strength for those that hope in Him.....over and over again


I think this year was the first that I could experience February 26thwith grief that was more like the old friend. Understanding it’s impact and grateful for even the painful years. I’m grateful I was able to be a part of the opening of this hospital, led by a visionary man whose primary gaze was upon the Lord Himself. I’m grateful for the laughter and passion he brought each time he entered the doors of the hospital. I’m grateful that I had a friend and colleague who could call me out when I wasn’t being the best version of myself. 

I’m grateful that a little boy’s mother trusted me (and my roommates!) to care for her fragile son in our home.  I’m grateful that we got to see a fragile boy grow into pudgy one.  I’m grateful for being able to deeply grieve alongside despite the language differences. I’m grateful that the Lord moved in that family to follow Him, and that we all be reunited one day before the throne of grace. 


I have no doubt that there are so many things to come that, in my earthly view, will be taken away. Friends, jobs, positions, dreams, plans..... But I do believe that the Lord is constantly moving us towards the direction of growth, sanctification, maturity....... in the direction of beauty. 

You might say this life is painfully beautiful, and I would definitely agree. But we serve a Lord who gives beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning, and praise for despair, and I know it’s true because I’ve seen it—not just in the world, but in me. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

The False Cross


When you first visit Mango, Togo you can’t help but notice the sky. The flat landscape and noticeable lack of surrounding trees make the sky appear vast and ever-changing. Foreboding storms in June, the smoky, sand-filled skies of January, the crystal clear November night skies showing off stars that hint at galaxies far away—it’s hard to keep from looking up.

I noticed the Southern Cross constellation for the first time in 2016. Since Togo sits near the equator, the well-known Southern hemisphere star formation sits low along the night horizon. I remember noticing it one evening as I walked along our dirt path, struggling with the events that had taken place over the previous few months. Even though there was nothing extraordinary in the moment, a time-stamp was marked in my memory, an Ebenezer of sorts, and I often mark the passage of time from that night.  I remember thinking that the Lord who placed the stars in the sky could certainly see me on this dirt path and knows all that has taken place.  As time passed, I would point out the constellation to visitors (since their North American homes couldn’t offer the view) and look for it each night as I strolled back and forth to the hospital. 


Yesterday evening, a visiting nurse and I pulled chairs out into our guesthouse parking lot at 2am to watch the Gemanie meteor shower. I was already awake for a night-shift, and Josie set her alarm for the event.  Missed sleep was no match for shooting-stars and a bowl of popcorn enjoyed in the chilly night air. I decided to download a star-gazing app on my phone to find new constellations and congratulate myself on ones I already knew: Orion, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major.... I confidently held up my phone to the Southern Cross and no little lines connected the 4 stars. I thought it strange, but moved on to others: Leo, Virgo, Pegasus.... I went back to the Southern Cross, assured now that the app was working correctly, and still...nothing. The app allows you to click on individual stars, which I did: “Epsilon Carinae” I read, “also known as Avior”. As I began to read aloud, “one of four starts that makes up the Asterism known as the False Cross. This is often mistaken for the Southern Cross causing errors in astronavigation.” 


I’m sorry.....what?!?!


I realize it sounds ridiculous, but I was floored. Disappointed. Embarrassed. I had not only spent 4 years believing that was the Southern Cross, but also spent four years telling other people it was the Southern Cross! (my apologies if you are one of those people). I had spent the last four years, time stamping an event, a moment, that was based in something false. (those who know the enneagram, I’m a 5w6 so you can imagine my horror J) I hadn’t truly spent the time to ever find out if what I saw was interpreted correctly. I had no reason to believe it wasn’t the Southern Cross since I didn’t even know about the False Cross. 


In medicine we say that the most dangerous providers are those who don’t know what they don’t know. People who aren’t even aware of the knowledge they are missing. It’s one thing to know you have deficiencies, so you can go find answers when you don’t have them, or surround yourself with people who have different expertise than you. That’s called wisdom. When we can’t even imagine there is information we are missing, and assume we are already adequately informed, it borders on foolishness. 


2020 has left its toll on us all, but in many ways we are very shielded here in Togo, and most of my angst or frustration comes from reading the news or Twitter feeds. I have friends and family across the spectrum of political standings and COVID opinions. My own sending church is probably just as blue as it is red.  One of the most concerning aspects of watching things play out from three-thousand miles away, I’ve realized, is the rhetoric coming from fellow beleivers:


“Real Christians vote for ______”

“You can’t be a Christian and support ________”

“Loving Jesus means wearing _________”

“If Jesus were here he would _________”


I’ve read countless articles written by theologians with as much training in Biblical interpretation as I have in medical training. I want to acknowledge and give respect to them and their education. At the same time, Christ has given all believers the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit meant to reveal His Word to us for every good work. While there are clear biblical teachings about how every Christ follower should act, the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the Bible are to be a reflection (good or bad) of our understand of Christ and who He is. But I think anyone who has been a believer for any length of time is able to look back and say, “wow! I’m so glad I have grown in my understanding of ________”, or “I’m so thankful that the Lord has moved in my heart so that I no longer desire _________.”  But it would be a shame for any of us to look back on our walk and think “I probably wasn’t even a Christian before I was as spiritually mature as I am now.”  We are hopefully moving closer to Christ with each season that passes as He walks us through the valleys and mountain tops of life. We are becoming no Church at all if we look at others on the road behind us and think “they probably don’t follow Jesus at all.” Or rather, if we look at those ahead of us and think, “maybe I am not a follower of Jesus since I don’t seem to be as far along as him/her.”


A mature believer could probably look back and label things they believe about God now, that they didn’t know before. They didn’t necessarily seek out the knowledge, because they didn’t know it was even missing! But the Lord brought them through a situation that made it abundantly clear that they lacked the knowledge or wisdom to respond well. Maybe the Lord brought someone alongside to teach them. Maybe life itself was crushing and they began to understand the Lord’s deliverance in a whole new way. 


I am frightened as I watch the Church mark out who is or isn’t part of the Church using open-hand issues that have to do with (possibly) being early in a spiritual walk, a preference, or an issue that the Bible does not speak to directly. I would love to challenge everyone to reflect on whether we are fixing our eyes on a False Cross. Is there something that seems righteous, or un-righteous, to you that you have held up as a marker of, not only your faith in Christ, but as a marker for someone else? Is it a political party, a policy, an organization? Are we holding up False Crosses that are deciding our fate, or rather, holding our identity as children loved by the Almighty God? Can you only follow the command “love your neighbor as yourself” if she socially distances inside and out?  Could you wear a mask in order to spend time with a friend who is fearful? Can lockdowns both save the life of an elderly woman, and be the direct cause of a child starving on the other side of the world? Can we be thankful a child thrives in online learning with a family blessed with enough income to weather the storm, while grieving another who commits suicide from isolation? What if the Lord appointed both Trump and Biden in their respective times to bring about His plan for our country, whatever that may be? 


Are we willing to evaluate if the Lord is using the year 2020 to reveal to us the False Crosses in our lives? These are things that seem honorable and true, but in fact, are imitations of a Gospel Truth that centers on Christ crucified and resurrected. Remember: Christ’s perfect life for your sinful heart. Christ sanctifying your over time until His return. Christ + nothing = Salvation because salvation is determined by His work, not mine. His grace. His love. 


I learned that Cassiopeia and the Southern Cross can’t ever be seen in the night sky together.  If I had known this, I would’ve known that I was seeing a False Cross all these years. What is something being held up in your sky that is keeping Jesus from sharing the same space in your life? Something may seem worthy and true, but is actually a shadow of truth instead, and keeping Jesus from being the center. 


CS Lewis said, “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ.”


And while that quote is true, that handing over your whole self is almost impossible—it is worth it. In the end, there is only one true Cross, and as Christ reminds us, “It is finished”.  We don’t need to add to the message of the cross or speak for Christ where he has not spoken. As we move towards the celebration of Christ being sent to us on this Earth, let the only message we have as Christians be: You can’t be a Christian if you don’t know Christ, so let me introduce Him to you.......





Saturday, April 4, 2020

And so it begins..

When you talk to my dad about 9/11, he has a hard time relating to the raw emotion that most of us experienced on that day. That’s because when you ask him, “where were you when you heard about the attack on the twin towers?”, he says, “Haiti.” In fact, he was in a remote area of Haiti and was told by a Haitian national that “your country was attacked today.” But there was no television, no watching people fall out of buildings from the 40thfloor, no live plane crashes. So, while he is able to relate to the sorrow the day brought, it’s not really the same. 

Many of us Africa missionaries, I think, have felt this way about Coronavirus. No matter how many news updates I read or numbers I see ticking across the screen, we have been, up to this point, quite removed from the impact of it all. Africa, until very recently, had been quite spared from the pandemic and we’ve been feeling as though Mango, Togo was the safest place in the world.

Our hospital is no stranger to epidemics and the fear they cause. As the site of Togo’s first ever Viral Hemorrhagic Fever outbreak, we have spent many hours in PPE with hands cracking from chlorine. So, it’s been quite surreal for the last 2 months or so, as we’ve watched Americans experience things that, in many ways, are norms for us here: a lack of finding food items, lack of personnel and equipment, distance from friends and relatives, and even medical workers doing jobs they weren’t trained for. In no way did this bring any feelings of “it’s about time!” or “what’s the big deal?!” In many ways, it made it easy to empathize with all the emotions that our friends and families were and are going through. But it was also all through a looking-glass, as we were still unaffected by the chaos going around the world. In fact, if internet hadn’t improved so much in the last few years, we would likely still be largely unaware of the COVID pandemic ravaging the world. (I still have Togolese friends here that don’t know that World War II happened or that any wars are taking place right now!) 

Form March 7th— March 18, Togo only had 1 imported case of COVID—a Togolese national returning from Belgium and France. We held our breath to see if she had been isolated quickly enough. Slowing more cases came, imported cases mostly from travelers returning to Togo from abroad. More than half our medical team had plans and tickets to go to a medical conference in Greece that circles around every 2 years. It was a much-anticipated time where we would get both training, reunion time with friends serving around the world, and much needed vacation time as well. But as the virus continued to spread around the world, our hopes of travel faded away. Even after the conference was cancelled, I adjusted my ticket to fly direct from Togo to the U.S for a 3-month furlough that had been planned prior to COVID. 

But finally, on March 28ththere was case in Togo that couldn’t be traced back to a known contact with the disease. In the world of epidemiology, this is the sign of an outbreak that is now un-controlled. Not only was this new case a marker of things to come, the case was a woman that was from right here in Mango. Suddenly, our corner of the world wasn’t so immune anymore. As we are someone used to epidemics here, I still thought I wouldn’t be affected the way I had seen on news and social media. I would watch the U.S make more and more restrictions to keep the virus from spreading and try and encourage stateside friends that the quarantines were truly necessary. I made the hard decision to postpone by furlough time for a month since Togo had stopped all incoming flights which meant no volunteers could come to cover my absence. Meanwhile, I still felt immune to the stress and fear of it all. 

In the week before our case in Mango, though, my great-aunt passed away. A few days after, my grandmother passed away. She was my last living grandparent and there was no sweeter soul on this earth. I had spent time with her on my last furlough and asked her to stay alive for 2 more years so I could see her again. She thought about it for a second and said, “2 years?! Maybe you can just write me a letter.” Both woman dearly loved the Lord and were ready to see Him face to face. I couldn’t admire either woman more. I knew I would likely not see my grandmother again, but suddenly she was gone and my solace was that I would be home in time to at least be at the funeral. Postponing my furlough time was necessary for many reasons, but as the days went on, I now could feel the stress and frustration this virus was causing in my own heart: 
missed vacation, 
missed family during a time of need, 
when will I finally be able to leave Togo? 
what will cases do in Togo?
where will our supplies come from?
how will our cancer kids get to the hospital with border and road closures?

I finally wrote an e-mail to my roommate here. Why couldn’t we just talk? It was almost as if saying things out loud would both make them real and unleash a never-ending list of complaints! I couldn’t really put a word to what I was feeling—anger? Frustration? Fear?
Disappointment. I was feeling disappointment and grief. There are two types of grief at play. One is over things you had but are now gone, like the loss of loved ones. This is probably the most standard/familiar form of grief. It feels as though something has been taken, or stolen, from us.  The loss is an experience we had that we can’t have anymore, and we miss it. The other type of grief is the loss of things that will never be, a hope deferred. You can’t miss the experience but you never had it. Instead, you’ve missed out on the experience. There are no memories to rest on or be grateful for time you had, because it never happened. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, which is what I think many of us are feeling.    

There is a beautiful article that came out in TIME this last week. “Christianity offers no answers about the Coronavirus. It’s not Supposed to.” It’s a beautifully written article about lament and the season we are in as Christ-followers. It explains, better than I could, how the Bible rarely gives an answer to “why” for our suffering, but instead offers the “how”.  Our answers are not in how to distract ourselves by finding new series on Netflix or looking for the end of the internet. Instead we are meant to stare straight into the eyes of lost-expectations and disappointments and lament before a Savior who both directed and demonstrated the practice in his own time here on Earth.  

I am clearly not in control. I don’t know when I will get to go home. If I’m able to fly out of Togo, it is also risking not being able to return to Togo for an unforeseeable time given travel bans. I know I will never see my grandma again on this Earth, but I know we will be together again before the Lord one day. I don’t know when this outbreak will end, but I know in Togo, it is only just beginning. 

So, redeem the time, with what time there is. Redeem it for lamenting or redeem it for joy, redeem it for reconciliation or redeem it for solitude. Redeem it for spreading the gospel or redeem it for learning the gospel. The Lord will redeem this Earth one day and all the illness in it, of that I am sure.

In the meantime, please go wash your hands, and stop touching your face. :-)

See you at the feet of Jesus sweet lady˜

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

On that very Day

"The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years, on that very day,all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." Exodus 12:40-41.

February 26th is, and always will be, an extremely important day with mixed emotions that range from celebration to somber, from praise to lament, from joy to pain. Of course, February 26th was the first day of the opening of the Hospital of Hope. Thousands of people in attendance including the president of Togo himself. Excitement filled the air as well as the bizarre playing of the song Hotel California on repeat the morning of the ceremony by the local station running our sound. (luckily no one understood the English lyrics!) The preparations had been years in the making and we will only see in heaven how everyone's stories wove together to bring us all together on that opening day. 

Fast-forward one year later to February 26, 2016. The call came that Todd Dekryger, our beloved friend, hospital surgeon and Medical Director had passed away shortly after arriving in Germany via his evacuated flight from Togo. We had literally crossed over small mountains being pulled by a semi-tuck with a canvas rope to get him on that flight. It's easy to think, "of course he'll be healed in Germany. We are under-resourced here, but they can do everything there." It wasn't to be and the rest of the story played out in months of managing Togo's first ever Lassa fever outbreak, the horrible disease we later found, was responsible for taking our friend's life. There were no 1-year anniversary celebrations taking place, as the day was instead marked with mourning and shock. 

February 26, 2017 was now the first anniversary of the loss of Todd while spending time celebrating who he was and how the Lord has sustained us during that year. Even though Lassa fever had reared its ugly head once again by this date, we tried not to let us affect the joy of remembering our friend and all He had done to make this hospital a reality for the people of Mango in the name of Christ. By that evening though, my roommate and I received news that a child we cared for over the last 10 months, Tama, often caring for him overnight in our home, had suddenly become ill and quickly passed away. It seemed impossible that the Lord could allow this to take place at all, let alone on this date. 

Over the past 3 years so much more has taken place. Some is recorded in this blog and so much more could never be. And as I think on the verse in Exodus 12, I am reminded that the Lord wastes no detail in His kingdom, especially when it comes to timing. Do you suppose that the Isrealites themselves knew that they and their ancestors had been in captivity 430 years to the day?? Why 430 years? Why not 429 or 477 or 2? the Bible points out with the small praise "to the day", and it seems like only we as the readers get to revel at this supernatural insight into the Lord's plans. 

This year, February 26, 2020 falls on Ash Wednesday. And while not all Christian denominations spend time recognizing this day in the same way, my sending church has always make this day and the period of lent, a part of our yearly rhythm. This year they sent out an explanation of Ash Wednesday as we believe it applies to us as evangelical believers: 

"Ash Wednesday is an ancient practice that opens the season of Lent—a season of reflection, fasting, prayer, and lament—that incites us to remember and confront the reality of our mortal existence. The act of drawing a cross with ashes signifies that we are from dust, and to dust we will return. (Genesis3:19). The world around us moves at a rapid pace and seems to forget that it is not eternal. So, we commemorate this event publicly, and as a community, to remember our frailty. The ashes used to make the sign of the cross are not a sacrament nor a moral duty. The ashes are not magic. This is simply a visual activity that reminds us of the sad truth of our mortality and points us forward to the hope we should cling to in Jesus’s rising from the dead—his victory over sin, death, and the devil." 

I can think of no better way to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of HOH and the anniversaries of loved ones that have gone before us, but to take time to humbly recognize my own weaknesses and frailty while clinging to the awesomeness of truth demonstrated by Christ's victory over death, sin, and the devil Himself. My sadness is almost turned to laughter when I imagine how Satan thought these things would devastate us to the point of despair and the loss of Hope. While I can mark several days when I thought this may be true, that I couldn't carry on any longer, the victory is the Lord's and it has already been accomplished and will continue to be accomplished until the very dayHe decides to take us Home.  It will not be a day too soon nor a day behind the appointed time....and maybe it will even be on a February 26th....... wouldn't that be wonderful......

See you soon friend.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Where's the Snow?!

Confession: I don't really look forward to Christmas in Togo. The problem is, I grew up in Chicago and Christmas = cold, snow, and lighting a candle as you sing silent night at a midnight service at church. So far (despite my high hopes and many prayers) snow has yet to fall here in Mango and the high temp was 98 degrees with cool low of 68. Being away from home on holidays makes your realize how much of the emotion of the holiday is steeped in family and cultural tradition, over what we are actually celebrating-- God incarnate, given to us, the lasting gift of grace and promise of glory. 

Neimatou's last day of chemo
The promise of glory can seem very far away at times. Such of mix of highs and lows, day to day it becomes easy to feel as though not much has happened at all. Like anything in life, the mundane can set in and it becomes hard to look back and see any progress. But as I look back at my last post, I am encouraged to realize that both Neimatou and Denise have completed their chemo treatments, and Fatimata and Djamilajoin continue faithfully in theirs. We also have had 2 other children that have since started cancer treatment programs. We sadly lost Mounirou and Abraham, which were very hard losses. Both families expressed gratitude for the efforts and time we spent trying to bring healing to their children, but the loss was heavy. 

Here in Togo, heaviness is never far from joy, though, and we are very close to discharging home Baby S who was born weighting 770 grams (1 pound, 11 ounces) at 28 weeks. She is now over 35 weeks (gestational age) and mom is eager to bring her home. Although Baby S is only now 2 lb. 14oz, mom spends her days trying to convince us that everyone in her family is small, so we should keep this in mind and let her go now. (I'm trying to imagine what a Neonatologist would say in the US to a mom that tried to use that argument! LOL!) We having yet bought into that argument but look forward to the approaching day when she will head to home for the first time. 

We are also weeks aways from sending a sweet boy to the United States for heart surgery. He came to us early 2019 and despite living in Burkina Faso, the family has gone through a lot to keep his appointments and get him where he is today. Through the generosity of Healing the Children and Norton Children's Hospital in Louisville, KY, our little friend will have his heart repaired in mid-January. Please pray for the final paperwork and other logistics to be completed quickly and for his complete healing. Pray that we may find some Mossi (Moh-see) or "More-ay" speakers in Louisville to help his transition as a parents will not be accompanying him to the states. 

I cannot begin to express my gratitude for those of you who have recently given to the HOH Peds Cancer Fund--both outright and trough the t-shirt campaign. The t-shirt campaign  was automatically re-launched when more people decided to buy shirts, so if you missed it, please know that there's still an opportunity to get yours: You can also give a tax-deductible donation directly to the account at and mention Peds Cancer in the comments boxy when giving. (We will SOON have our own page for giving..stay tuned). We have also started a new Facebook page called Surviving Takes Hope, so please find us and follow us so you can stay up to date on what is happening with our chemo kids here in Togo!

I do hope that you are having a beautiful Christmas season and that we are all able to take time and reflect on the beautiful way the Savior of the world humbled Himself for us, and we can look forward to the day when we see Him face to face. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

From Death to Life

The story of Lazarus is familiar to many, even if biblical literacy is not your trade.  Lazarus was a close friend to Jesus and brother to Mary and Martha. Jesus was told that he was sick and to come quickly but he purposefully waited and said, "it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it." By the time Jesus did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days. Everyone was in mourning and Jesus, seeing this, "was deeply moved in spirit and troubled."
Jesus then proceeded to call Lazarus forth and all watched in amazement as Lazarus rose from the dead. 

The last blog post mentioned the loss of a couple of our children in our chemo program.  Often, we only know a child had died because they stop showing up. Phone calls are attempted but often reach non-charged telephones or are somehow the phone number of someone in a nearby village who doesn't know the family well. This was the case for Jonathan. Jonathan had come to us extremely malnourished--the kind of malnourished you see on TV. He was hospitalized for over a month and didn't smile once. He had completed 4 rounds of chemo and his family was very faithful to keep appointments, until one day....he stopped coming. We called and called. Finally, we reached someone in the village who said, "oh yes, I know that family and their son died over the weekend." The news was a troubling blow. Although he had a complicated beginning, his cancer had responded well to treatment and is a cancer that comes with an 85% survival rate (even in the developing world!). As my previous post mentioned, he was among the cases that made me think twice of even continuing cancer care here in Togo. 

The day after I posted the last blog, Jonathan and his parents walked into the clinic. There is no way I can describe the emotions I felt other than comparing it to those outside of Lazarus' tomb that day! 

You. Were. Dead. 
And now you're alive. 

I realize that some of you are thinking, "but he was never dead, clearly". Clearly this is true. The political climate on the Ghana border were the family lived had become very tenuous which prevented them from crossing the border in Togo to get to our hospital. But from our perspective (and from the perspective of those mourning Lazarus), the outcome was already final, and only Jesus knew otherwise. 

When we told his parents that we thought he was dead, and that someone in his village confirmed this, they threw their hands up and laughed and said, "well of course he's not dead, he helps me work in the fields!!" All we could do is laugh in joy alongside of them and praise our Lord that this was the case. Because just as in the plan of Lazarus, these things take place so that God's Son may be glorified through it. I likely would not have considered praising Jesus for Jonathan showing up at his routine visit for cycle 5 of chemo. But you better be sure I was praising Him now!! 

Who can know the mind of the Lord? I may never understand the full extent of why Jonathan's story took the turn it did. Johnathan did finish chemo and is doing well. He has even smiled for us. 

Another patient, a 21 year-old student named Lamboni has also completed his chemotherapy for a rhabdomyosarcoma. We celebrate deeply with these patients as they become like family to us during their long chemo courses. Even as I type, we have 2 new 21-year old students diagnosed with osteosarcomas (malignant cancer of the bone). Pray for them and their families as we provide them with their only opportunity for treatment.

Pray also for our other kiddos as they continue ongoing cancer treatment here at HOH:
Denise- 2 years old with a Wilms Tumor
Mounirou- 3 year old boy with a Wilms Tumor
Neimatou- 16 year old girl with osteosarcoma
Fatimata- 12 year old girl with leukemia
Djamilatou- 12 year old girl with liposarcoma

Want to know how to financially help these children with cancer? Go to and Use Account number 0763831-002. This account goes directly towards paying for the care of each individual patient receiving pediatric cancer care at HOH.